Exclusive: French club in line for poaching backlash

Legal boost for City and Chelsea after Rennes' guilt in 'tapping-up' case is exposed
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The French club who want a transfer window ban imposed on Manchester City for signing an Under-16 international have been found guilty of the same poaching offence they are accusing the Premier League club of committing, The Independent can reveal today.

Rennes, who have reported City's conduct in the signing of Jeremy Hélan to Fifa, face a fine from France's Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) after taking Tongo Hamed Doumbia from Châteauroux, a Ligue 2 side, on a three-year deal in June. Châteauroux's administrative director Bruno Allegre yesterday confirmed the details of the Doumbia case and accused Rennes of hypocrisy in their pursuit of action against City.

"There are certain people who hand out lessons in morality to others but do not practise what they preach," Allegre said. "Rennes like to think of themselves as an exemplary club, a moral leader which lectures others but, at the moment, they are not capable of sticking to those lessons. Either that, or they are completely incapable of training young players because they seem to have to take them from other clubs."

Doumbia was on a contract amateur at Châteauroux, according to the Ligue 2 side. "The player was obliged to sign with us," Allegre said. The case went to the LFP who ruled that Rennes are now liable to pay an undisclosed sum in compensation to Châteauroux. The revelation that Rennes have ignored a contract which is similar to the centrepiece of their own case against City may strengthen the Premier League club's position – though it remains unclear how comparable the Hélan and Doumbia contracts are. The LFP would not discuss the case yesterday.

Sports lawyer Adam Morallee of Mishcon de Raya partners said yesterday that for the conduct of either Rennes or Lens to assist British clubs there had to be a blatant legal contradiction between their complaints and their own actions. "If [a French club] had a lawsuit in which the specific contract in question was an issue and went into the witness box and said 'this is not a real contract', but then said the opposite thing there could be some significance," Morallee said. "If they are actually saying 'this is not a contract' then that would undermine their case."

Doumbia, who was born in Vernon, west of Paris and was at a number of small clubs in the capital from the age of 13, had been with Châteauroux for two years and though he had played for them on only one occasion, he had attracted the attention of both Lyons and Rennes, who moved in this summer. Though he was 19 when he moved, three years older than Hélan, the Fifa regulations in both Rennes' case against City and Lens' against Chelsea with regard to Gaël Kakuta, relate to players of all ages.

Chelsea will discover within the next six days Fifa's reasons for banning them from two transfer windows for allegedly inducing Kakuta to leave for Stamford Bridge. If they appeal, their case is expected to be built narrowly around the facts leading up to the former French Under-16 captain's move, with some British lawyers now of the view that the club have their work cut out persuading Fifa to reduce and reverse its transfer window ban which leaves them unable to buy until January 2011.

Chelsea are expected to seek to demonstrate that Kakuta's pre-contract, known as a contract aspirant, was not binding in law and to demonstrate that they did not induce a breach of it. The regulations – Article 17, paragraphs 3 and 4 of Fifa's rules on the Status and Transfer of Players – assume that an inducement has taken place when a contract has been broken so Chelsea must prove that there was not. If an appeal is lodged, the testimony of Kakuta and the club's outgoing chief executive Peter Kenyon is likely to be key, though lawyers agree that proving something didn't take place, rather than proving that something did, is not easy in court. Some lawyers feel that Chelsea have their work cut out, because of the political significance of the Kakuta case.

Allegre said Rennes' interest in Doumbia, a midfielder, was the result of the player's agent offering the player "to different clubs", another parallel with the Hélan case. City, too, were contacted by a third party. "There are sanctions currently in the process of being decided," Allegre added. "Since he didn't [sign for us], there is compensation to be paid by the club he signed for. I believe that, in the future, there are two solutions: either the players are advised by agents who respect the rules, who respect certain values and certain morals. Or, when this kind of thing happens, we go to tribunals."

Rennes did not respond to calls on the subject of Doumbia yesterday. City were told by their lawyers that the pre-contract deal Hélan signed at Rennes was not binding and that they can challenge the Ligue 1 side's complaint to Fifa on three grounds.

Eye of the storm: How the legal cases stand

Gaël Kakuta

Chelsea will find out within six days what Fifa's ruling is on Kakuta, after which they will potentially be able to formulate an appeal.

Jérémy Hélan

Rennes have appealed to Fifa over Helan's move to City and await a verdict – but they accept an adjudication could take two years to come.